The Blackstone Group has ended talks to acquire a 40% stake in Israeli cybersecurity company NSO Group for around $400 million, Reuters reports. The deal, which also would have involved a 10% stake purchase by ClearSky, was expected to provide a partial exit for current NSO majority owner Francisco Partners. An NSO spokesperson says the company is not currently involved in an investor talks.
- Why it's the BFD: As we've discussed previously, NSO is the company whose software was allegedly used by the Mexican government to spy on opposition lawmakers, journalists and human rights lawyers (something that Mexican President Peña Nieto denies). It also once employed former U.S. National Security advisor Michael Flynn as a paid advisor. Blackstone's possible involvement had sparked some complaints from digital privacy advocates, although it's unclear if those efforts contributed to Blackstone's decision to back away.
- Bottom line: "Serious investors who have done their due diligence may be thinking twice about just how problematic this category of investments could be to their image and their bottom line." – Citizen Lab researcher John Scott-Railton, via Reuters.
• Mashable, a New York-based tech news site, has hired LionTree Advisors to find a buyer. Around five years ago, the company held failed talks to be acquired by CNN. Mashable has raised nearly $60 million in VC funding from backers like Time Warner Investments, Updata Partners and R&R Venture Partners – most recently at a post-money valuation of around $200 milion. https://bloom.bg/2x3TXiX
• Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) has agreed to acquire Cycle Computing, a Stamford, Conn.-based provider of cloud orchestration solutions, for an undisclosed amount. Cycle Computing backers include Western Technology Investment and WorldQuant Ventures. http://zd.net/2vYZyKm
• Netsertive, a Morrisville, N.C.-based marketing technology company, has acquired Mixpo, a Seattle-based creative management platform. No financial terms were disclosed. Netsertive has raised around $38 million in VC funding from RRE Ventures, Babson Capital Management, Harbert Management, Harbert Venture Partners and Greycroft Partners. Mixpo had raised around $10 million from Madrona Venture Group, Growthworks Capital and Yaletown Venture Partners. http://axios.link/amMw
• Summit Park has sold Control Co., a Webster, Texas-based provider of private label and branded lab equipment, to Cole-Larmer. No financial terms were disclosed. www.coleparmer.com
• Wynnchurch Capital has sold Senco Brands, a Cincinnati-based maker of fasteners and tools for the powered fastening industry, to Kyocera Corp. (NYSE: KYO) for an undisclosed amount.
• Air Belin, Germany's second-largest air carrier, has filed for bankruptcy protection. http://reut.rs/2fKBbJY
• Elliott Management has increased its stake in mining giant BHP Billiton (ASX: BHP) to 5%. http://reut.rs/2uOeYxv
• KeyBanc Capital Markets, a unit of KeyCorp (NYSE: KEY), has agreed to acquire New York-based healthcare investment bank Cain Brothers & Co. No financial terms were disclosed. http://axios.link/zfHl
• Prudential (LSE: PRU) has agreed to sell its U.S. broker-dealer network to LPL Financial (Nasdaq: LPLA) for $448 million. http://reut.rs/2vDlg5V